President Sidney A. Ribeau will leave BGSU to become the 16th president of Howard University on Aug. 1. The announcement was made by Howard trustees May 7.
Located in Washington, D.C., Howard is one of the nation’s leading historically black institutions, and is comprised of 12 schools and colleges with 10,500 students. The private university offers 120 areas of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees and operates Howard University Hospital, a Level One Trauma Center.
“I am excited by the opportunity to head this historic institution,” Ribeau said. “Howard is a remarkable university, a truly international university and one that has made significant contributions not only in this country but around the world, training principally African-Americans for global leadership roles in America and the world.”
“The search committee was very impressed with Dr. Ribeau’s credentials and his reputation as a facilitator of change and collegial leader. He is a charismatic executive who works effectively inside and outside the institution he heads,” said Gen. Colin L. Powell, who with Richard D. Parsons, chairman of the board of Time Warner Inc., co-chaired the Howard University Search Committee.
“Dr. Ribeau brings to Howard a complete academic resume, having served as professor, dean and vice president,” Parsons noted. “He has built a well-rounded and impressive resume as a scholar and academic leader in higher education and has a solid record as an effective fund-raiser.”
The news of Ribeau’s imminent departure elicited words of praise from faculty and administrators with whom he has worked closely.
According to Dr. Bob Midden, chemistry and director of Partnerships in Context and Community (PCC), “President Ribeau has demonstrated outstanding leadership during his 13 years at Bowling Green State University. He has fostered a true sense of community throughout the campus, drawing people together around a common vision of premier excellence in learning with a student-centered focus.”
Linda Dobb, executive vice president, concurred. “He encouraged each of us to think about the things we value in higher education and share our best thinking with our students and community. He reminded us daily that we were working together toward a common purpose, which was to improve lives through contact with a great university and its faculty, staff and students.”
Charting a new path
Ribeau took office in 1995 following a difficult period of budget woes, downsizing and a divisive attempt to unionize faculty. With morale at a low ebb, he launched the Building Community initiative, a period of intensive conversation between about 2,000 faculty, staff, students and community members about what they perceived the essence of the University to be and what they would like BGSU to become in the 21st century. Out of those discussions arose 19 priorities, the University’s vision statement and its five core values.
The enhanced attention to students was one of the outcomes. The Center for Teaching and Learning (now the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology) was created to give faculty resources to keep their skills current; residential learning communities were established, and the new student union was funded and built. More than $40 million in scholarships have been generated.
“One of the most notable developments during his tenure has been the founding and growth of several residential learning communities that have been nationally recognized as some of the best examples of innovation in higher education. These programs expand the focus of education beyond just the formal classroom environment throughout all aspects of students’ lives, thereby enhancing student success and satisfaction,” said Midden, who has been involved in both the Chapman Community and PCC.
A native of Detroit and well aware of the untapped potential among underprivileged but promising young people, Ribeau used a 1997 bonus from the board of trustees to found the President’s Leadership Academy, whose philosophy is based on developing servant-leaders.
Current director Andrew Rivers said “the President’s Leadership Academy has reached a point where it defines the vision Dr. Ribeau set forth in 1998. After 10 years of prosperity and growth, it is a very successful program that makes a difference in our students and graduates. The President’s Leadership Academy looks at leadership development as a holistic process and develops lifelong learning in professional skills in our students. In addressing its quantitative success, we have phenomenal four-year retention and four- to five-year graduation rates. This program is a testament to how Dr. Ribeau takes a vision and shapes it.”
Ribeau also took the idea of servant-leaders into the academic arena, working with faculty who hold similar views to establish Partnerships for Community Action, the Center for Innovative and Transformative Education and other programs that work directly with the community on mutually beneficial projects. Eventually, he also initiated a new track for faculty who are interested in community-based research with the Scholarship of Engagement, an alternative route for tenure and promotion.
Engagement in scholarship, service
Engagement has been an underlying theme of Ribeau’s tenure at BGSU. He has repeatedly advocated not just community service but active citizenship, encouraging students and faculty to exercise their ability to effect change.
He also placed an emphasis on the importance of the University’s being engaged with the community and the state, working for the betterment of all citizens.
“President Ribeau has been on the forefront of the movement to foster the application of knowledge to the benefit of our local, regional, state, national and global communities,” Midden observed.
An outgrowth of the original Building Community discussions was the core value of respect for one another. Ribeau took that concept to another level with the introduction of the vision and values initiative and, with it, the BG Experience Program. The goal is to make Bowling Green students more aware of their own, perhaps unarticulated, values and more open to and tolerant of those of others.
In addition to his responsibilities at BGSU, Ribeau serves as a trustee for Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association and on the Division I Board of Directors for the National Collegiate Athletic Association. In Ohio, he has served as chair of the Inter-University Council of Presidents. He is also active throughout the state, working with the Bowling Green Area Community Partnership, Regional Growth Partnership, Worthington Industries, Toledo Symphony, Convergys Corp. and The Andersons Inc.
Highlights during Ribeau’s tenure
• Introduction of First Year Experience Programs
• Introduction of Learning Communities, recognized by U.S. News & World Report
• Creation of the President’s Leadership Academy
• Launched BG Experience values initiative
• In 2006, BGSU was recognized as one of five U.S. colleges and universities for curricular engagement with the community, and has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
• University enrollment increased during President Ribeau’s tenure, and BGSU saw record enrollment of more than 21,000 in the 2006-07 academic year.
New buildings, capital improvements
• Bowen-Thompson Student Union
• Perry Field House
• Sebo Athletic Center
• BG Supernet technology infrastructure
• Residence hall renovations
• Building Dreams Campaign, the largest fund-raising effort in University history, reached $130 million in spring 2008, surpassing $120 million goal.
• $8 million gift for Stroh Center—biggest single gift in University history
• $40 million in new scholarships raised through the Building Dreams Campaign
• 10 new endowed professorships and two teaching-coaching excellence positions added through private contributions
• Wolfe Center for the Arts project gets $1.5 million gift from Mary and Fredric Wolfe
• Creation of four-year degree programs
• Opening of the Cedar Point Center
• Record enrollment